Tension in Mali as army detains president and prime minister

Tuesday May 25 2021
Bah Ndaw.

Mali Transition President Bah Ndaw in Bamako on September 25, 2020. The military has detained him, the prime minister and the defence minister. PHOTO | MICHELE CATTANI | AFP


Mali's transition to democratic rule has been plunged into uncertainty following the arrest on Monday of the country’s president and prime minister.

Local media reports indicate that Transition President Bah Ndaw, Prime Minister Moctar Uoane and Defence Minister Souleymane Doucoure were detained by the military just hours after a new cabinet was unveiled. They were taken to a military base in Kati, a centre outside the capital Bamako.

The last cabinet was dissolved last week amidst growing public anger against the military, which is seen as having large influence on the government. The reshuffle left out some officials who led a coup against Boubacar Keita last August.

A coalition of civil society and political opposition, dubbed M5 Movement, has been calling for reform in the government. Earlier this month it called for the dissolution of the interim government and demanded for a more “law-abiding and more legitimate” body.

According to sources, the military is unhappy with the new make-up of the cabinet, which left out key military officers out of the transition government.

Out of the 25 ministers announced for the new cabinet on Monday, the army still continues to hold strategic portfolios it held initially – defence, security, territorial administration and national reconciliation, according to a statement from state broadcaster, ORTM, announcing the new government.


Coup leader, Assimi Goita, is currently serving as interim vice president.

However, two names of top military officials who participated in the coup – Sadio Camara, who was defense minister, and Colonel Modibo Kone, who was security minister – were dropped in the reshuffle, according to media reports.

The arrest of the president, PM and minister comes 10 months after the Malian military seized power following former President Boubacar Keita’s sudden resignation in the face of accusations of mismanagement of the country’s war against Islamist forces in the north of the country.

Mr Ndaw, a retired military officer, is heading an interim administration charged with transitioning the country back to civilian rule as part of an Ecowas negotiated deal with the military junta.

The transition period was expected to last 18 months, during which the country is supposed to hold elections and return to civilian authority. The plan included conducting a constitutional referendum this October, with elections scheduled for February 2022.

There was no immediate comment from the military over the leaders’ detention, but various diplomats in Bamako urged their citizens to remain indoors.

The US embassy in Mali said there had been “reported military activity” in the capital, and advised its citizens to be cautious.

Mali, a former French colony, has faced coups and coup attempts in the past.